Saturday, March 31, 2012

Citrus 'Worst' Disease Detected in Hacienda Heights: Can Spinach Come to the Rescue?

Huanglongbing (HLB) early symptoms on citrus leaves. 

Huanglongbing (HLB) disease of citrus, also known as citrus greening disease, has been detected in citrus pysllids and plant material the local neighborhood of Hacienda Heights. HLB is a devastating disease that leads to the death of infected trees and can lead to the destruction of the California citrus industry (it's already destroyed over 40% of the citrus trees in Florida). It looks grim but there may be a glimmer of hope represented by a gene found in spinach by Texas A&M researchers that helps fight off the disease. Unfortunately field testing has just begun on trees modified with this gene, so it may not be available for 10-20 years. Since the disease spreads rapidly (infection in the Florida trees was only first detected in 2005) that might not be enough time to save a good portion of the industry here. However, like many plant diseases it remains to be seen if the climate difference between the humid, topical climate of Florida's citrus areas and the hot, dry climate of California's citrus areas will have any effect on the spread and severity of the disease.

Associated Press Article on HLB Discovery in California and Texas A&M Spinach HLP Resistance Gene Modification

Huanglongbing (HLB) symptoms on citrus.

California Department of Food and Agriculture HLB Press Release

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